Nine a.m. arrives relatively quietly on this Wednesday. Surgery check-in goes until 8:30, and there aren’t too many people running late, so we’re actually a little quiet in the waiting area. One man is already waiting, though.
James has two pups, Finnley and Veda, and he’s an eager pup dad, not super familiar with puppies and a little nervous, but clearly happy with his two sweethearts. He’s here to get them another round of boosters, right on schedule.
The first person to show up after 9 is a woman with a little, white French Bulldog named Zoey. We all ooh and ahh over her, of course, because that’s just the nature of this place. At first she spends a lot of time barking, and her owner, Rachel, asks if it’s okay to take her out to pee. Better out there than in here, I say, but the truth is there’s a lot of nervous, happy, or submissive pups that pee when they’re here. We keep fresh buckets of mop water handy at strategic locations where accidents most often occur. Also, we should perhaps own stock in a company that makes Wet Floor signs.
Shortly after Zoey arrives, folks start really showing up. Springtime is no joke in animal welfare; the sudden growth of the animal population leads to a plethora of new pets. So it’s no surprise when everybody that shows up for clinic in that first half hour has a puppy.
Except for one woman. She has a tiny grey fuzzball of a kitten, mostly furr and eyes and claws, and it’s clear she is smitten with this little rescue of hers. His name is Dexter.
“Well, it’s his name now,” she says. “We thought at first he was a girl, and now we think he’s a boy, but I mean, maybe we’re wrong.” She shrugs, smiling. “So his name might change again.”
Finnley and Veda have had their boosters and are out the door, so it’s Zoey’s turn. We’re giving her a booster and a nail trim. Want to guess what helps get us optimum compliance when trimming nails? You know it: treats.
It turns out that Zoey’s growing more quickly than expected; Dr. Lavelle sees that her adult teeth have come in already, so she gets her rabies shot today instead of a regular puppy booster! They grow up so fast.
Meanwhile, Dean and Charlie are checking in, a couple of big, rambunctious yellow pups that like to circle around and around and get their owners tangled up in a web of leashes. Their mom says that a neighbor’s dog had an oops litter of puppies, and it just so happened that someone in their family had a birthday coming up, so they took two of them in. They’re both very sweet, very curious pups. It’s good that they took these two in; the pups are clearly very close. They also like to get noisy when they wind each other up. Their mom tells them a few times to use their inside voices. It doesn’t quite work.
The doctor determines that the little gray furrball of a kitty, Dexter, is a boy after all, so his name won’t have to be changed again. But as you might have noticed from the picture above, he wasn’t as healthy as he could be. Dr. Lavelle diagnoses him with an upper-respiratory infection. He’s got those goopy eyes, and he’s dehydrated and skinny, too. It’s not uncommon among kittens, especially ones that have been found alone.
Because we aren’t a full-service vet, we can’t treat him here, and Dr. Lavelle doesn’t want to vaccinate since his immune system is likely running on overdrive right now anyway. We keep a list of affordable referrals on hand for these kinds of situations. Even if we can’t help, we give all the information we can to the client, and try to get them where they need to be. Upper respiratory infections aren’t likely to be fatal if they get treatment in time, and Dexter is a pretty spirited little fluffball, so we hope to see him when he’s better so we can get him that booster.
Dean and Charlie are next, and it turns out that these pups like to hug. That’s something we’ll always take a dog up on.
Outreach has shown up with a vaccination transport for an outreach client who doesn’t have transportation. He’s a really sweet dog named Bo. But it’s clear right away that something’s not right. He’s frightened, which isn’t uncommon, but there’s something else. He’s missing a little bit of hair, and there’s redness on his skin.
Dr. Lavelle says he most likely has sarcoptic mange. We get him vaccinated, and Julio gets together info to give to his owner about what he can do, and how we can help.
Things are picking up now. It’s getting difficult to take notes and pictures and still do data entry in the clinic. Three more clients have shown up: Jose and his daughter with their pup Minnie, Bailey and her dog Echo, and Hannah with her dog Meredith.
Jose’s daughter is shyly going from person to person, asking if she can meet their puppies. How could you not? I certainly haven’t been able to stop myself from doing it.
The general rule in the clinic is that puppies should be held, especially if they haven’t had any boosters yet, in case somebody came through with something that lingers. It also keeps the unsocialized pups from causing chaos. It doesn’t always work out, as pups wiggle and squirm and get away, or an owner forgets and we have to remind them (gently, of course).
So a few minutes later Echo and Meredith are sniffing at each other, testing the waters. They don’t get too close before everybody is separated, but they do a few short, playful barks at each other, which Jose’s daughter, now seated with her dog on her lap, mimics. The pups both look at her with their heads tilted slightly. She smiles and pets Minnie.
Entering in Meredith’s treatments into the computer, I realize that I remember Hannah’s other dog, Asti. Asti was in for surgery last year, and was absolutely one of our favorites. We even included her (and her giraffe toy) in our post on the 10 pics that summarized our 2017.
I tell Hannah this, and ask how Asti’s doing. Her face lights up, and her cheeks turn a little red. She’s great, she tells me. Asti and Meredith get along really well, too, and everybody’s happy. She’s clearly glad that we remember her pup. At clinics, especially high-volume clinics like ours, people don’t always expect that we’ll remember their pet, and of course we can’t remember everybody. But anytime we can talk to a client and let them know that we remember them and that we care how everybody’s doing, it goes a long way toward showing how passionate we are about what we do, and about pets in general. Of course, there’s also the fact that we often see these pets once a year at most, so it’s always nice to hear how one of your favorites is doing.
Things are rockin’ in the clinic now; faces are getting licked, people are wandering over to someone new to ask them about their pup: where did they come from, how are they with other animals, how well do they listen. Leashes are getting tangled, heads are getting petted, and one by one each of the animals goes into the back, maybe a little nervous, and comes out with their tail set to high speed the moment they see their human. Conversations (and barks) are flowing fast and free. People and pets are meeting and making friends. Yes, urine is spilled, but that’s what the mop is for. Small price to pay for helping people get their pets up-to-date affordably, and getting to see the seemingly random ways in which humans and pets interact in these spaces, like marbles spilled out into a box.
A family I haven’t seen yet is in the waiting area now. The young girl is sitting with a pup in her lap, smiling a big ol’ smile. Her mom is explaining to Beatriz, who’s doing customer service, how the neighbor’s dog had worms, more worms than she’d ever seen. Beatriz is talking about the dewormer that comes with the booster. This is all very serious and grown-up stuff. The girl is still sitting in the chair next to her mother. After giving me permission to take her daughter’s picture, she and Beatriz continue their conversation.
I don’t take the pic right away; the pup is sleeping in her arms, and I don’t want to ruin the moment. After a few seconds, I ask the girl if I can take her picture, and she says yes. She moves in her seat, and the pup wakes up, looking around groggily.
The girl’s smile doesn’t change. This is how she feels when she holds this pup.
This is why we do this.